[This series was inspired by this post, and is a fictional inquiry into what might have been if I’d made different choices.]
I am seventeen years old, applying for colleges. I have paid my application fee, and have chosen three schools: U of T, Queen’s, and York. I still have a fourth to add to the list – the fee allows four applications – and I have no fourth school in mind that I would want to attend. I’m searching through the list and I come across Queen’s ISC. I research it. It looks interesting, but it’s very expensive. I decide instead to apply to McMasters. My last conversation with my grandfather no longer includes the possibility of me going abroad, and his excitement and pride for my own international adventure. We discuss instead what pre-law program I’ll be taking, and he is proud of me anyways.
The waiting game is hard, of course, as it is with anything. In the end, I get into all my schools. I choose U of T, because I was always going to choose U of T. Or perhaps I choose McMasters. Either way, I spend my first year in residence. I make friends. Maybe I date. I don’t have the breakdown that ultimately causes me to see a therapist, because I’m pretty content. School is hard, but I’m good at that. I make exceptional grades across the board.
After I graduate with honors, I have my pick of law schools. I choose instead to pursue a masters, because I’ve enjoyed my education so far and I want to keep going. I get it, and go on to my PhD. I am very much in debt. My PhD does not get me a job. I work odd jobs doing research, maybe write. I start getting published, or start publishing on my own. I’m in my early thirties, now. I might yet get married. Might settle down. I’m too worried about paying off my student loans just yet to think about those things.
I finally get a job part-time at a university. I teach a few undergraduate classes. Eventually I meet another part-timer whom I get along with. We get married, eventually, and once we both get full-time jobs, we buy a house. It’s getting too late for me to have children, but we try anyways. We miscarry one too many times, and give up. We have a dog instead. We talk about adopting, but it never happens. We’re too focused on our careers, our research. Our house fills with books and awards and publications. When our friends have children, we spoil them like we would have spoiled our own. We’re happy.
Life goes on. Our parents, one by one, pass away. We are alone together, and in our quiet moments sometimes we wonder if we should have tried again. Should have adopted. But we never do. We watch our friends’ children grow up and have children of their own, and I feel like I ache somewhere deep in my chest as my friends show me photos. We’re part of their lives, though, and we get to spoil them, too. I am their favorite babysitter whenever I’m not at a conference, and I love it.
Eventually, we retire. We spend our time travelling and reading. Sometimes both simultaneously. Eventually my partner slows down; doesn’t move so great. He encourages me to go away for a weekend we’d had planned for each other. While I’m gone, he passes peacefully in his sleep. I spend the rest of my life alone with my books, enjoying the time I have with my adopted nieces and nephews and great-nieces and nephews.
When I die, there is a large celebration held in my honor. I worked hard in my field, and am known by many. Millions have read my books, and I am remembered for that. My family may have been small, but my legacy lives on in books and minds the world over.